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Series Preview #10: D-backs vs Dodgers

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D-backs will likely win this series against the Dodgers.

Former D-back Brad Ziegler helped Miami win a series against the Dodgers.
Former D-back Brad Ziegler helped Miami win a series against the Dodgers.
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

What happened in the second series between Dodgers & Diamondbacks?

The D-backs won their second series with the Dodgers because an avalanche of homers. Those who joined the party were Goldschmidt (twice), Pollock, Ahmed, Descalso, and Avila (good to see). Just like the first series (17 runs to 8 runs at Chase), the D-backs outscored the Dodgers (19 runs to 15 runs at Dodgers Stadium).

What about this series?

This series will be played at Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks have significantly outscored the Dodgers last season and this season. Two reasons follow:

  • Inconsistent Offense. The Dodgers’ offense is inconsistent, scoring two or less runs in 40% of their first 23 games (50% against the D-backs). In this four game series, that should provide 2 excellent chances for the D-backs to win.
  • Inconsistent Bullpen. In games where the Dodgers have scored 5 or more runs, the Dodgers’ bullpen has blown the game 4 times out of 10. In this four game series, I am confident the bullpen will provide a win to the D-backs.

This season, the D-backs have better base running and better defense than the Dodgers. Two examples follow:

  • The Dbacks have more stolen more bases than the Dodgers (15 vs 9).
  • On 28 April, the D-backs ranked 5th in the Majors in defensive efficiency (.710). The Dodgers ranked 23rd (.684).

In summary, for the reasons I have talked about, I predict the D-backs win 3 games out of 4 this series.

How well are the Dodgers playing?

The bright side:

  • The Dodgers swept a series against the last-place Padres.
  • Seven players with an OPS+ above 100 are Barnes, Bellinger, Grandal, Hernandez, Kemp, Seager, and Utley.
  • Walker Buehler allowed no runs in his first start of the season.
  • Although his ERA and FIP were 9 on 9 April, closer Kenley Jansen has pitched better after that.

The flip side:

  • Last week, the Dodgers lost their series against the last place Marlins. Thereby the Marlins broke a 5 game losing streak and lifted their record out of last place in the Majors.
  • Justin Turner (the best Dodger hitter) remains on the DL. Yesterday, Puig was added to the DL.
  • Rich Hill, who was scheduled to start on Monday, has a new infection on the same finger that previously sent him to the DL, and will miss Monday’s start.

How well are the Diamondbacks playing?

The bright side:

  • First place in the NL West is like sunshine on my face!
  • Nine consecutive series wins!
  • Paul Goldschmidt is playing at the All-Star level, both offense and defense.
  • Four players with an OPS+ above 100 are Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, David Peralta, and John Ryan Murphy. Patrick Corbin has hit well, too!
  • Matt Koch has pitched very well in Taijuan Walker’s rotation spot.
  • The Bullpen pitching has been awesome! Every reliever has an ERA+ at or above 148. Boxberger has 8 saves, and Bradley has 2 saves. Neither has any blown saves. Boxberger’s goose-egg conversion rate of 75% is better than the 65% rate in 2015 (his previous best-ever season).

The flip side:

  • Lamb, Souza, and Delgado continue on the DL.
  • Taijuan Walker had Tommy John Surgery and is out for the season.

Who will pitch in this series?

Monday. LHP Rich Hill (65 ERA+, 9.6 SO/9, 4.2 BB/9) Ross Stripling (615 ERA+, 10 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (90 ERA+, 9.6 SO/9, 0.9 BB/9)

With his cracked finger nail healed (his fingernails evidently grow faster than mine), Rich Hill will be activated off the 10 day disabled list just in time for this game (according to Andy McCullough of the LA Times). Rich Hill is the fourth oldest pitcher in the NL, and will miss his scheduled start due to an infection in his finger.

Instead, Ross Stripling will start this game. This season, he is an excellent relief pitcher. His only earned run allowed was in the ninth inning with a 6 run lead. On Saturday, he pitched one inning (16 pitches) while allowing zero earned runs and no walks. Last season, he started two games: one for 2 innings and one for 3 innings. I predict he will pitch three innings.

This season, Zack Greinke ranks third in the Majors in SO/BB ratio (10.67). Interestingly, Patrick Corbin is sixth with a ratio of 8.00 and Dodger Alex Wood is first with a ratio of 13.00.

This season, Greinke has allowed at least one homer in every start. Is this a problem? On April 25th, Jesse Friedman sent a tweet saying Greinke’s HR/9 changed from 0.69 as a Dodger to 1.24 as a D-back.

Let’s look at the impact of homers for all the D-back pitchers. Instead of HR/9, the most relevant stat is number of runs scored via the homer per 9 innings (Runs-by-HR/9). Knowing Runs-via-HR/9 allows determination of percentage of runs allowed via the homer.

Runs via Homer for D-back Starters

Pitcher (Runs-via-HR)/9 Ratio of (Runs-via-HR) to (earned runs)
Pitcher (Runs-via-HR)/9 Ratio of (Runs-via-HR) to (earned runs)
Matt Koch 0.75   33%
Zack Godley 0.95   25%
Taijuan Walker 1.40   70%
Patrick Corbin 1.58   70%
Robbie Ray 2.1   40%
Zack Greinke 3.3   69%

The chart shows that Greinke allowed the highest rate of runs due to homers. The margin is significant. However, this game is at Chase against the low scoring Dodgers, so advantage D-backs.

Tuesday. LHP Clayton Kershaw (135 ERA+, 9.9 SO/9, 2.1 BB/9) vs Matt Koch (226 ERA+, 7.1 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9)

With his untypical start against the last place Marlins, Kershaw badly needs to bounce back. In that start, it took him 112 pitches to complete 5 innings. Five innings was his shortest start of the season. In the fifth, two walks followed by a homer by Miguel Rojas did the damage. Did one bad pitch do the damage? Or, was it 112 pitches in 5 innings that was at fault?

In two six-inning starts, Koch pitched very well. Although his fastball and cutter are his best pitches, he gets swinging strikes with his curveball. Matt Koch said, “It’s coming along really well. It’s getting a lot more consistent.”

Koch will remain in the rotation. His pitching reduced my concern about pitching depth caused the injury to Walker. I am unsure about how many innings his arm will support. Although he pitched only 56 innings in 2017(minors), in 2016 he pitched 140 innings (combined minors and Majors). Hopefully he can continue pitching until Shelby Miller returns.

Wednesday. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (172 ERA+, 10.8 SO/9, 2.9 BB/9) vs Zack Godley (113 ERA+, 8.9 SO/9, 3.5 BB/9)

In his 2 April start against the D-backs, Ryu allowed three runs in 3.2 innings. Walking Lamb with the bases loaded was a gift, especially because the next batter, Nick Ahmed, hit a deep fly that almost scored four more runs.

In his 27 April start against the Giants, Ryu allowed 2 homers, and hit a double scoring 2 RBIs. The Dodger bullpen lost the game with four runs in the seventh inning.

Let’s look at Bill James’ game score. Zack Godley pitched at replacement level (game score of 40 or less) in two games so far this season, and he earned a win in one of those games. The D-back offense and defense are excellent enough to win at least 50% of their games with replacement-level pitching.

So far this season, Zack Godley earned four wins. I predict the D-back team will win the game, and Godley will have his fifth win decision!

Thursday. LHP Alex Wood (93 ERA+, 7.7 SO/9, 0.8 BB/9) vs LHP Patrick Corbin (191 ERA+, 12.4 SO/9, 1.6 BB/9)

Alex Wood ranks second in NL in fewest walks per 9 innings (Patrick Corbin is 6th). This contrasts with Patrick Corbin who ranks third in the NL in strikeouts per 9 innings. This match-up will be a different type of pitching duel. May the best pitcher win! Spoiler: his initials are PC.

Camden Yards
Camden Yards

My visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards

I said, “Adios Amigo,” to the Uber driver. In front of me was a very tall brick structure. A thought intruded on my awe – where is the entrance? The windowed doors were shut, with no welcome signs. A couple wandered by and then stopped to ‘talk.’ Follow-the-crowd quickly left my mind.

A policeman stood like a statue – no doubt to protect and serve. I approached him with my best face forward (actually with my only face forward). My humble question received a commanding answer, “Gate H is that-a-way.” I moseyed for a country mile (maybe less as the crow flies). What I saw was unexpected.

What caught my eye were life-size bronze statues of numbers, like 22. Their bright shine and gigantic size compelled me to stare in awe. The spell was broken when I could not find 44.

Beyond the entrance was a long and wide walkway without a roof. The walkway was fun. My first view of the field was delightfully green. A kind lady made a certificate to memorialize my first visit to Camden Yards.

Camden Yards is older than Chase Field. All the seats, even the upper decks feel remarkably close to the players. The on-field advertising is old school, except for an electronic sign in center field. Overall it felt like a spring training game, and it was awesome!

For the most part, fans ignored the cues to make noise. Instead of noise, when the Orioles scored the crowd sang an unfamiliar lyric. I would need to hear it again to describe it. Maybe if the Orioles’ offense was as great as the Diamondbacks, I could have told you more.

The seventh inning stretch was owned by John Denver’s, Thank God I’m a Country Boy. Yahoo! Suddenly, I felt myself dancing in the isle. I earned many smiles, even a smile from the usher. I sat down. Note to self – one beer limit at Orioles games.

The center field sign showed that 2078 miles away, the Diamondbacks were ahead. I was happy. Who won? All I remember is that the numbers were gigantic and awesome.